IFFAM Project Market 2019: DEAR WORMWOOD Wins Top Prize at Asian Production Market
If I had the means and the time to attend more production markets I would have to add IFFAM Project Market in Macau to that growing list. Alas we were left living vicariously through our lord and master's attendance at the market in his official XYZ Films capacity. It costs nothing to dream. It costs a crap ton of money to fly to Macau, thus here we are.
This year's market wrapped up on Sunday, so we are a couple days behind on the awards announcement but it is still worth talking about so you know what is potentially coming your way in international genre cinema in the years to come.
Variety reported that supernatural horror project Dear Wormwood, from Philippine director Dodo Dayao, claimed the top prize at the market. Coming into the market Dear Wormwood had about fifteen percent of its estimated $525,000 budget; always good to have a little bit of money in your pocket when talking to potentional investors and producers. The winners will share a cash prize of $40,000.
“Wormwood” is a tale of five women living together in a remote house in the forest, where a mystery illness strikes one of the quintet, followed by a series of cataclysmic events in the surrounding forest. Dayao says he originally conceived the film as a chamber piece about the end of the world, but has expanded it into something larger and more political. He calls it a: “Lovecraftian cosmic horror that seems like a tonal fit for our times.”
The full program included fourteen film projects to meet with industry figures to discuss partnership opportunities, co-production and finance. Among the winners was Australian director Natalie Erika James, a director who has been on our radar since her 2017 short film Creswick made an immediate impression on us. Her feature film debut Relic will have its world premiere at Sundance in the new year but that has not stopped her from charging ahead on another project called Drum Wave, based off of her 2018 short film, which won the co-production award. See below.
“The Day and Night of Brahma,” to be directed by Sheetal Magan and produced by Sheetal Magan, collected the creative excellence award. The Macao Spirit Award went to Uk Kei, a drama about a woman who flees her native Portugal and arrives in Macao where she is forced to face up to her past. The director is Leonor Teles, production by producer Filipa Reis.The co-production award went to “Drum Wave,” a folk horror tale to be directed by Natalie Erika James on a budget of $8 million. Intended as an Australian-Japanese co-venture, the story follows a pianist who is plunged into an island community, and has to confront motherhood issues when the town holds its annual fertility festival. James previously directed the Emily Mortimer and Bella Heathcote-starring “Relic.” Production is through Carver Films and by Anna McLeish and Sarah Shaw (Justin Kurzel’s “Snowtown”.)
There were also two work in progress screenings, Dutch director Jim Taihuttu (Wolf) screened his Indonesian wartime drama The East, about the Indonesian War of independence against the Netherlands in the late 1940's. Vicente Amorim (Motorrad) screened one of his latest projects in post, an action thriller called Yakuza Princess, and adaptation of the graphic novel "Shiro" by Danilo Beyruth.
Production markets largely focus on regional projects so about half of the projects had Asian subject matter. Of more importance to us at Screen Anarchy thirteen of the sixteen projects were genre films. Nine were selected by IPM, and there was one entry from their international genre market partners. I have been to two myself, Blood Window in Argentina and Frontieres here in Canada. The other two came from FIRST Financing Forum in China and Sitges in Spain.